Copyright guide: eTheses

Use of copyright material

In the UK, the use of material owned by a third party - another author, photographer, publisher, etc. - is governed by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.  Making your thesis available online constitutes publication and therefore you should ensure that you have permission to include third party material.

Permission can come in several forms: 

  • If the work is old (generally copyright exists for 70 years following the death of the author), see here
  • If re-use of the work is covered by an open licence such as Creative Commons
  • If there is an exception in law which applies to your use (see our list of exceptions), this will usually be for a small amount of a published work

 If the extract does not fall under any of the terms above you will need to seek permission directly from the copyright holder.  If the material is from a published book it is best to contact the publisher of the work in the first instance.  Many large publishers have Rights and Permissions departments used to dealing with copyright clearance; email addresses can often be found on publishers' websites.  We have provided some suggested wording in the Downloads box in the right hand menu.  It is important to realise that no response does no mean permission is granted.  Where permission to use the third party copyright material is obtained, you should make sure that clear acknowledgements are provided within the thesis, and that a written record of all correspondence is kept.

If clearance is not obtained to use copyright material that you consider essential, there are two options:

  • embargo the electronic thesis (you will still need to submit and electronic copy to the University as well as a printed copy); or
  • edit the electronic thesis - but not the printed copy - so that it complies with third-party copyright requirements, clearly indicating the excisions made

Further information about copyright can be found here.

All newly-registered research students are strongly encouraged to undertake training on using copyright materials.  Details of training events will be posted via the link above, or contact your Librarian for further information.  See here.


It is important to acknowledge your sources correctly when using a short extract from third party material.  It is also important to reference correctly to avoid any accusations of plagiarism.

Third party copyright in unpublished material

Unpublished material may attract copyright in manuscripts, accounts, minutes etc.  If the author, artist or creator has been dead for more than 50 years and the work is over 100 years old it is probably out of copyright.  However, must unpublished works will still be in copyright until 2039 and this includes photographs.